- The Washington Times - Friday, October 25, 2002

The United States remains "dangerously unprepared" to prevent the next terrorist attack on its soil and has not taken the steps to ensure a coordinated response among federal and local authorities if a strike occurs, a high-powered bipartisan commission has concluded.
"After a year without a new attack, there are already signs that Americans are lapsing back into complacency," the commission, headed by former Sens. Warren B. Rudman of New Hampshire and Gary Hart of Colorado, concluded in a detailed report being released today. The commission was sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations.
Stephen E. Flynn, the commission's project director, said that America's adversaries must have learned one important lesson from September 11: The country is very vulnerable to a terrorist attack. He said that the United States has not adequately addressed its domestic security needs.
"The organization is still being worked out, resources haven't gotten where they need to go, the tools are not in the hands of first-line responders. And the threat, if anything, is likely to get more pronounced" following military action against Iraq, Mr. Flynn said.
The panel laid out a series of recommendations to bolster homeland security and give law enforcement and emergency responders tools and information to try to capture terrorists before they strike, and to respond effectively if an attack occurs.
Among the problems cited by the commission:
Local law enforcement agencies don't share the same communications equipment, making it impossible for them to coordinate a response to an emergency.
The National Guard is oriented toward a mission of supporting troops overseas, not to responding to domestic catastrophes such as a biological attack.
The nation's domestic energy supply "remains largely unprotected to sabotage."
In terms of preventing terrorism, the commissioners said federal authorities need to give local officials access to information about potential terrorists.
"Police officers on the beat are effectively operating deaf, dumb, and blind," the commission concluded. "Terrorist watch lists provided by the U.S. Department of State to immigration and consular officials are still out of bounds for state and local police. In the interim period as information sharing issues get worked out, known terrorists will be free to move about to plan and execute their attacks."
The panel also said the proposed Department of Homeland Security "should be enacted on an urgent basis." However, the commission did not take a position on whether it supported the proposal backed by President Bush, which has already passed the House, or the one championed by Senate Democrats, which remains stalled in the chamber amid partisan wrangling.
"This report says that irrespective of that, and even if that were to be passed tomorrow and signed into law, here are some things where we'd better get with it quickly," Mr. Rudman said.
The panel consisted of people with a range of experience, including former Secretaries of State George P. Shultz and Warren Christopher, who are engaged in helping local governments figure out their security efforts.
Mr. Flynn said another problem is the government's inability to share the classified results of some studies with private industry. He pointed to an ongoing review of security risks at 50 U.S. ports and said after it is completed, the U.S. Coast Guard will not be allowed to brief port officials on the specific results.
The panel proposed a law giving temporary "fast-track" authority to industry leaders, enabling them to review "secret-level" classified information.

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